JB Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, gave the commencement speech at Northwestern. It’s pretty good.
The best way to spot an idiot? Look for the person who is cruel. When we see someone who doesn’t look like us, or sound like us, or act like us, or love like us, or live like us—the first thought that crosses almost everyone’s brain is rooted in either fear or judgment or both. That’s evolution. We survived as a species by being suspicious of things we aren’t familiar with.
In order to be kind, we have to shut down that animal instinct and force our brain to travel a different pathway. Empathy and compassion are evolved states of being. They require the mental capacity to step past our most primal urges. I’m here to tell you that when someone’s path through this world is marked with acts of cruelty, they have failed the first test of an advanced society. They never forced their animal brain to evolve past its first instinct. They never forged new mental pathways to overcome their own instinctual fears. And so, their thinking and problem-solving will lack the imagination and creativity that the kindest people have in spades.
Then the summary:
Be more substance than show. Set aside cruelty for kindness. Put one foot in front of the other even when you don’t know your way. And always try and appreciate the good old days when you are actually in them. And remember what Dwight Schrute said, ‘You only live once? False! You live every day! You only die once.’